Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in New York City, December 30th, 1925

As we can see from the posters, lobby cards, programs and ads for Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, every means and all tools were used to promote this film, yet, because of its budget (most expensive of the silent era at 3.9 million) it lost money on its initial run, finally making a little profit in the re-release in 1931 when a score and sound-effects were added. (See our post about another Easter favorite, from 1935: Golgotha)

BenHur1925_preview ben-hur-1925-1 ben-hur-1925-belge(2) benhur1925cinorcv ben-hur-a-tale-of-the-christ-sheboygan-press-271101-p14 benhurimagesben-hur-img-26968ben hur MV5BMTM3ODM0OTE1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjc3Mzc4._V1_SX640_SY720_Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ_02Ben-Hur_(Klaw_&_Erlanger)ben hurLCBENHURSC4WMben hurdiLPgZC8L7LIm0uVXPNv9uB0DCZben hur programm 043-ben-hur-theredlistben hur program for new york premeirinterests_09ben hurdiLPgZC8L7LIm0uVXPNv9uB0DCZben hurlbenhur1a1_600ben hurThePictureShowASben hur038-ben-hur-theredlistben hur036-ben-hur-theredlistben hur037-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 042-ben-hur-theredlist

Stills from Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ:

ben hur 062-ben-hur-theredlist

Forty-eight cameras were used to film the sea battle, a record for a single scene.

ben hur 066-ben-hur-theredlist

The Guinness Book of World Records (2002 edition), relates that Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, contains the most edited scene in cinema history. Editor Lloyd Nosler compressed 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of film into a mere 750 feet (228.6 meters) for the chariot race scene – a ratio of 267:1 (film shot to film shown).

ben-hur-color03

The religious scenes were all shot in Technicolor along with Ben Hur’s entrance into Rome and some of the interiors.

ben-hur-color01ben-hur-color04benhurd8cc82  ben hur 006-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 009-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 045-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 058-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 064-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 073-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 077-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur row06.02-BenHur   ben hur003-ben-hur-theredlist OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ben hur029-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur00239 ben hur6011207_f520 ben hurGinger-673 1926 Ramon Navarro Ben Hur benhur Annex%2520-%2520Bushman%2C%2520Francis%2520X_%2520%28Ben%2520Hur%2C%2520A%2520Tale%2520of%2520the%2520Christ%29_02 benhur ywjyU

ben-hurbenhurWilliamFarnumBenHurben hur 002-ben-hur-theredlistben-hur-theredlistben hur 008-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 065-ben-hur-theredlistben hur041-ben-hur-theredlistben hur032-ben-hur-theredlistben hur001-ben-hur-theredlistbenhur Ramon-Novarro-Judah-Ben-Hur-and-Francis-X-Bushman-Messala-Ben-Hur-A-Tale-Of-The-Christ-1925ben hur 054-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 1181739354ben hur 053-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 004-ben-hur-theredlistbenhuruntitled

Behind the scenes stills:

ben hur 060-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 069-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 061-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 059-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 057-ben-hur-theredlistBen Hur 1925ben hur 075-ben-hur-theredlistben hur ac-1926-ben-hur-2-copy

Holiday Affair, Happy Anniversary! a Delicious 1949 Christmas Time-Capsule

holidayaffairholiday-affair-movie-poster-1949-1020197016(2)Holidayaffair1949holiday affair1940s-vintage-holiday-affair-illustration-movie-poster-advertisement-hollywood-robert-mitchum-janet-leigh-wendell-corey

To say that Holiday Affair was a Christmas Eve release (most modern reports state this) is true only from the perspective that it was seen around Christmas at most theaters nationwide; another film added to that always growing list of the soft-roll-out-national-opening.

The_Post_Standard_ Syracuse, New York, Wed__Dec_21__1949_

Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, December 21, 1949

The_Nebraska_State_Journal_ Lincoln, Nebraska, Thu__Dec_22__1949_

Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 22, 1949

Clovis_News_Journal_ Clovis, New Mexico Fri__Dec_23__1949_

Clovis News Journal, Clovis, New Mexico, December 23, 1949

The_Daily_Times_News_ Burlington, North Carolina Sat__Dec_24__1949_

Daily Times News, Burlington, North Carolina, December 24, 1949

Lubbock_Evening_Journal_ Lubbock, Texas Mon__Dec_26__1949_

Lubbock Evening Journal, Lubbock, Texas, December 26, 1949

 

Nor was Holiday Affair a Thanksgiving Day opening, but instead, a Thanksgiving Eve premier in New York City, at Loew’s State Theater; with showings beginning at 10:00 A.M…

The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Tue__Nov_22__1949_

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, November 22, 1949

The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Wed__Nov_23__1949_

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, November 23, 1949

 

Holiday Affair is a Christmas movie filmed with an adult sensibility, romantic, witty, sometimes acerbic; this Christmas gem is a must see for the Christmas Holiday Season. Robert Mitchum performs warmly as the sentimental, amorous lead – Steve; Wendell Corey, (one of my favorite actors, underrated) smooth as always, as Carl the fiancé, the beautiful Janet Leigh as the confused widow – Connie, with young Gordon Gebert as Timmy.

holiday afairmitchum

Robert Mitchum

holiday affairthILK3NTUJ

Janet Leigh

MP_C6386

Wendell Corey

holiday affairbilde

Gordon Gebert

The basic plot is simple and as far as romances go oft used. Just before Christmas, toy-department clerk Steve Mason (a World War Two Veteran) meets comparison shopper Connie Ennis. He of course knows that she is undercover but lets her go, which gets him dismissed immediately. Their new found friendship-romance causes problems with Carl (an Attorney, later playing well into the writers’ scheme) Connie’s beau,  adding tension to the already stressful situation, for Timmy (Connie’s son) likes Carl but does not want his mother to marry him, wanting everything to remain the same (just him and his mother, or as he refers to her “Mrs. Ennis”), yet, after Timmy meets Steve, he is swept off his feet and ready for mom to go down the bridal-path with this out of work clerk, to the chagrin of Carl.

Lush photography, crisp staging, droll dialog with abounding script complications makes this one-present that you won’t want to re-gift. Holiday Affair, directed by Don Hartman, screenplay by Isobel Lennart and cinematography by Milton R. Krasner.

Holiday_Affair_B&Wholiday+affairholiday-affair-1949choliday affair 28holiday-affair-13holiday affair18

 

One year after its premier, Holiday Affair was adapted for radio broadcast for the Lux Radio Theater, on December 18th, 1950; Mitchum and Gebert reprised their film roles, for the 60 minute radio program.

Holiday Affair (released nationally on December 24th, 1949 and November 23rd, 1949, premier in New York City) received a luke-warm review from New York Times Film Critic Bosley Crowther, and did not do well at the box office, reportedly [1] losing $300,000.

Why the box-office doldrums for Holiday Affair? Possibly, the reason lies within the story itself. It was just not quite as “traditional” or “sweet” as, A Miracle on 34th Street, nor did its plot-key turn upon “ghosts of Christmas,” angles of any kind or seasonal songs. The story-line that was directed to adults did not make this a family-friendly time at the movie-house for “Mom and Dad, with kids Jeff and Sue” in tow. It was better suited for young-couples, single mothers seeking hope, desultory men searching for purpose who, one and all would attend this film in the harsh realities of post-WW2 America; this may have been just a little too much, just a little too real for the audiences of 1949 to digest. For us today Holiday Affair is a reminder of love and responsibility, of friendship, trust and intimate lasting relationships, which without makes us all the poorer, which with, makes us all the richer.

 

Merry Christmas!

By C. S. Williams

holidayaffair (2)Holiday-Affair-christmas-movies-869494_245_304Holiday Affair 1949Holiday Affair


[1] “The RKO Story”, 1982, by Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York, Page 234.

Portrait of Jennie, a Production Journal, of a Timeless Christmas Gift

portrait-of-jennie-poster-1

 

Glimpses of the Portrait of Jennie in 1948:

Portrait of Jennie had its general public premier on Christmas Day, 1948, at the Carthay Circle Theater, located at 6316 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles, California; a more than fifteen-hundred seat theater, with nearly one-thousand on the main floor. The opening was seen in the afternoon, with the theater opening its doors at noon.[1] This was far from the first viewing of what is now considered a classic film of the Golden Age of Hollywood…

Carthay Circle Theatre

Carthay Circle Theatre

Carthay Circle Theatre Flyer

Carthay Circle Theatre Floor Plan

Carthay Circle Theatre Floor Plan

 

On November 18, 1948, Portrait of Jennie was previewed in San Francisco, unfortunately, Jennifer Jones was unable to attend, because she was in the hospital for an appendicitis operation; the attack occurred on the day prior. She was confined to rest at the Good Samaritan Hospital, not released until November 29.[2] As was the custom for producer David Selznick, the premiere of Portrait of Jennie was viewed exclusively in veterans’ hospitals, date unknown but prior to November 18;[3] the first preview of, Jennie, for journalists, was not for the professional media, but for the high-school newspaper editors around Los Angeles. This special advance screening was in the first week of December, 1948, at the Selznick Studio.[4]

The Portrait of Jennie saw a pre-Christmas preview for the professional writers at the yet unopened eleven-hundred seat, Picwood Theater located at 10872 W Pico Blvd, at the corner of Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, California. The Picwood was owned by Phil Isley, Jennifer Jones’ father and her uncle, F. M. Isley. The Isley brothers also owned the Meralta Theatre in Culver City, California and the Lankershim in North Hollywood, as well as theaters in Texas. This move by Selznick was to help out Jones’ father (Jennifer Jones and Selznick would soon marry: July of the following year) who was suing Paramount Pictures, amongst others.[5] The suit alleged that the companies named were preventing Isley’s Picwood Theater from obtaining first run films on the same opening day as other Los Angeles area theaters. Included in the suit were eight producers and five “John Doe” corporations.[6] In the interim Phil Isley settled for second run status and opened the doors of the Picwood on Christmas Day, 1948 to the public.[7]

Picwood Theater, Portrait of Jenny Preview, 1948

Picwood Theater, Portrait of Jenny Preview, 1948

Picwood Theater Owner Phil Isley, father of Jennifer Jones

Picwood Theater, Owned by Phil Isley, father of Jennifer Jones

 

Theater owners and operators got their chance to see, Portrait of Jennie, with the next viewing which occurred in the New Year, when a trade screening was scheduled for early January, 1949, in New York City.[8]

The national release date of April 22, 1949 for Portrait of Jennie is incorrect, although many cities saw the film in the late spring of 1949; this was by no means a national roll-out with a hard and fast single day premier. Play dates in April and May of 49, were not consistent with a nation-wide release; this was a soft opening with premiers throughout the summer.

Altoona_Tribune_, Altoona, Pennsylvania, Thu__Apr_28__1949_

Altoona Tribune, Altoona, Pennsylvania, April 28, 1949

The_Post_Standard_ Syracuse, New York Sat__Apr_30__1949_

Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, April 30, 1949

Fitchburg_Sentinel_ Fitchburg, Massachusetts Thu__May_12__1949_

Fitchburg Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, May 12, 1949

The_Salt_Lake_Tribune_Fri__Jun_24__1949_

Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 24, 1949

 

Portrait of Jennie was seen in four additional cities prior to that release date of April 22, which is made reference to by so many modern sources. The openings in these four cities are in today’s market designated as limited engagements. With special previews, grand openings and special engagements, Portrait of Jennie, was seen from November of 1948 through the third-week of April without any particular target date of release. In many ways it was a weak approach for Selznick to wait for the Academy Award results to make available his fantasy-romance across the country. While most reviews were kind, any negative reports tamped down box-office receipts and as some industry insiders believed, Jennie played better to sophisticated audiences, mainly in the larger metropolitan areas.[9] Often Jennie was coupled with a mystery, comedy and even a western [10] and in the smallest markets the film saw little or no advertising. Quite a few communities did not see Jennie until autumn of 1949 and at least one theater had a special Christmas Day, 1949 showing.[11]

And now to the four cities that saw the celluloid Portrait brought to life by David Selznick, before the rest of the country did:

  1. Boston saw the Portrait of Jennie opening in the middle of March, at the Esquire and Mayflower Theatres; the Esquire instituted student pricing before 5:00 PM, daily, except Sundays.[12]
  2. Next, Portrait of Jennie was seen as a “premiere roadshow engagement” in Kansas City beginning on Thursday, March 24, 1949,[13] this was a two-house opening, at the Kimo Theater near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, at Main St. and 34th St… The second theater was the Dickinson, in Mission, Kansas (a suburb to the southwest of downtown KC), at 5909 Johnson Dr, just west of Woodson Rd…

    Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, March 24, 1949

    Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, March 24, 1949

  3. Then there was the gala premiere at the Rivoli Theatre, Broadway and 49th, in New York, which was on Tuesday evening at 8:30, March 29, 1949. This special viewing was to benefit the, Free Milk Fund for Babies; the entire proceeds of the premier went to the charity. Those in attendance where a who’s who of society, with Lord and Lady William Waldorf Astor, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt, Randolph Hearst, Jr. and his wife, along with Mr. and Mrs. John Randolph Hearst, and the Count and Countess Igor Cassini.[14] Jennie would run seven weeks at the Rivoli posting good box-office till the end.[15] A rather large supper party followed the charity premiere of Jennie, hosted by the Hearsts, at their home.[16]

    The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Tue__Mar_29__1949_

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, March 29, 1949

  4. April 18 was the premiere for Jennie in our nations’ capital; this at the Trans-Lux Theatre of Washington, D. C., on 14th Street between H Street and New York Avenue NW.[17] The First Lady, Bess Truman headed the list of sponsors for the premiere which benefited the David Memorial Goodwill Industries; this was D. C.’s workshop for the physically impaired; the chairman of the sponsoring committee was Mrs. Julia Roberta Vinson, the wife of the Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, Fred Vinson.[18]

 

Below the Paint: The Hiring for the Canvas

Although Portrait of Jennie premiered in December of 1948, and began filming in early 1947, still the story of its production began nearly five years before Christmas of 48…

In December of 1943, M-G-M bought Portrait of Jennie, a popular novel written by Robert Nathan in 1939.[19] Michael Arlen was set to adapt the novel for MGM (he had just completed collaborating on, The Heavenly Body) and the speculation was that Susan Peters, fresh off of, Song of Russia (which was released February 10, 1944) would star in the title role.[20]

Then in early January of 1944 David O. Selznick acquired the screen rights to Portrait of Jennie,[21] and Jennifer Jones although unofficially announced[22] for the part, was referenced as the likely star and close friend of Selznick, Joseph Cotton was publicized for the role of Eben on January 20, 1944.[23] Then the gap, three years between the initial casting of the stars and the actual production’s beginnings; time spent in development and technical preparation.

 

The First Brush Strokes of Jennie:

The location production unit for, Portrait of Jennie, was on the east coast during the winter of 1947, beginning photography on February 14;[24] shooting scenes in Central Park, Boston Harbor and other spots on the east coast.[25] The filming in Central Park was blessed by snow, which the property men were preparing to utilize an artificial snow-blanket over grass until the fortuitous event.[26] Director William Dieterle while in Central Park, in a most theatrical manner proclaimed as he saw the bronze likeness of Shakespeare: “Cast him.”[27]

Set construction was already in process in April of 1947, with William Saulter supervising the building of the sets for the fantasy, based upon the designs by Joseph B. Platt.[28] The Moore’s Alhambra Bar set when ready to be broken down, was used for a party thrown by the publicity department  for Jennie, and attendees (writers) were given beer mugs which had been inscribed with “Moore’s” for the film, as party favors.[29]

That same month Albert Sharpe and David Wayne were contracted by David Selznick; the pair were appearing in the Broadway smash hit, Finian’s Rainbow.[30] Producer Selznick suspended shooting, pending changes in the script which were handled by Paul Osborn; even with the script revisions, the location scenes shot during the winter were incorporated into the final version of Jennie.[31]

The central part of the story is the portrait in the Portrait of Jennie. David Selznick contacted Robert Brackman and invited him to Hollywood for the task at hand, of which Brackman refused, not wanting to leave his some eighty students, who during the summer lived and worked with him for the season, in Noank, Connecticut.[32] So, Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones packed up and traveled to the New London, Connecticut area, staying at the Griswold Hotel and Country Club, (which was situated, roughly eight miles to the west of Brackman’s home-studio-school) at Eastern Point.[33] This art-school that Brackman ran, literally out of his home, was the first incarnation of what would become his Madison Art School, which he opened in 1957, just over thirty-miles west, down the coast from his home.[34]

Griswold Hotel, Groton, Conn

Some reports have the fifteen sittings (fifteen was typical for Brackman) for Ms. Jones for her portrait that would be immortalized in the Jennie production, as being in the winter of 1947,[35] others no time frame is made reference to at all. But it was in late May of 1947[36] that Jennifer Jones sat for the first time for the famed portrait artist Robert Brackman. Her last day sitting for Brackman was in June, just fifteen days later; leaving Connecticut on June 12.[37] While Brackman may have been demanding to Selznick and troupe his time with Jennifer Jones clearly made a lasting impression, for he often recounted the stories of his sessions with Ms. Jones to his students.[38]

All points of the process of the painting were filmed for the movie, including the Technicolor sequence for the completed work. Joseph Cotton simply observed Brackman (on the few times he was allowed to visit a sitting), never picking up the brush, but putting to memory the style and habits of Brackman.[39] When Cotton attempted to imitate Brackman’s odd stance when wanting a more distant view, the on-set art consultant said “No, no, no, please, please-no artist was ever guilty of such overacting.” The decision of director William Dieterle followed the recommendation of the technical advisor and as Cotten humorously related in his autobiography, “it is nature that copies art, not the other way around.”[40]

BrackmanJenniferJones Photographed by Paul Juley of Peter A. Juley & Son   1012072_orig

 

Ethel Barrymore arrived in New York, for Portrait of Jennie filming on June 16, 1947.[41] The Jennie unit, worked at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, in New Jersey, then on to Oldwick, NJ, for the picnic scenes and Fulton Fish Market and Central Park back in NYC.[42] Just passed the middle of July the Jennie project was faced with still another month of filming scheduled, this to be done in Hollywood.[43]

cloisters popular culture2.ashx

On location at the Cloisters

 

 

The Portrait Delays:

The project saw more delays for various reasons; cinematographer Joseph August passed away on September 25, 1947 of a heart attack. He was photographing scenes at the RKO Pathé studio; August left the set and went to the production office and complained about the heat and fell to floor.[44] Then Selznick decided to wait for new sound equipment from Western Electric;[45] no doubt for the hurricane sequence.

 

The Finishing Touches and Signature for the Portrait:

Executive (assistant) producer Cecil Barker supervised two camera crews in Florida and Louisiana as they shot over four-thousand feet of film during Hurricane George (more often referred to as the Fort Lauderdale Hurricane) that hit Fort Lauderdale, Florida and into Louisiana, southeast of New Orleans.[46]

The projected opening date for Portrait of Jennie was originally April of 1948,[47] and one report had the film ready to be previewed, at the Selznick Releasing Organization [48] sales event, which was scheduled for January 8-10, 1948, at the Hotel Ambassador in Los Angeles.[49] By February of 48, the date of release for Jennie was no longer solid; now just listed as following the opening of, The Paradine Case.[50] One month later Selznick said he was willing to hold back Portrait of Jennie for the grand opening of the Victoria Theater (under a new name) on Broadway, if the deal went through, which it did not.[51]

In June of 1948, Selznick added ten more days of filming to the project; Cecil Barker, Selznick’s assistant stayed in New York to oversee the background shots ordered by his boss.[52] In September, the release date for Jennie was moved to the first quarter of 1949.[53]

It was reported that editing was completed by the middle of July, 1948;[54] but to say that cutting was over was not accurate. Editing continued into August, and the preparation was under wraps as usual.[55] Selznick was still mixing colors and attempting to improve the looks of the picture, edits were made and new dubbing was added as late as February, 1949.[56] This then is the actual final version of the film we have grown accustomed to; regardless of how minute the changes may have been by Selznick, still what was seen before these last tinkers is not what we see today.

Dimitri Tiomkin was selected to compose the music for Jennie, in August of 1948; at that point the projected opening date was early October.[57]

Finally, in October of 1948, it was admitted by Selznick and company that Portrait of Jennie would be released just under the Academy Award consideration dead-line,[58] which usually meant around Christmas. Sometime in November, for sure before Thanksgiving, Dimitri Tiomkin finished the recording of the score for Portrait of Jennie.[59]

 

Figures on the Canvas with No Names:

Frank Beetson Jr., who had worked on, Duel in the Sun and The Paradine Case, for Selznick, filled the position of wardrobe director again.[60]

Veteran makeup man Mel Berns (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons) acted as the makeup Director for Jennie.[61]

Joseph Platt, a former president of the Art Directors Club[62] and a two-time scenic designer on Broadway,[63] who had done designs for, Gone with the Wind, Rebecca and The Paradine Case was the art director for the project.[64]

Joseph Platt Art Directors Club-Dinner-Hotel-Commodore-5-22-36

Joseph Platt, at the Art Directors Club Dinner, at the Hotel Commodore May 22, 1936

 

Clem Beauchamp who was the production manager of over twenty-five films (Champion, Cyrano de Bergerac, High Noon and The Defiant Ones) was the unit manager for Jennie.

Morris Rosen, who is listed as a grip for Portrait of Jennie on the Internet Movie Data Base, actually was the head grip for the production;[65] Rosen saw work as a grip on more than forty movies, including: Duel in the Sun, Rope, The Men and On the Beach.

One name that is absent from the cast is that of Joseph Buloff;[66] obviously Buloff did not make an appearance in Jennie, yet he was announced as a member of the Jennie group of performers. At the same time as the cast members (including Buloff) of Jennie traveled from New York to California, Buloff was signed for a part in, To the Victor, a Warner Brothers production.[67] What part was Buloff to play in Jennie? That we may never know.

By the first week of October, 1947, Paul Eagler was named to replace cinematographer Joseph August who died of a heart attack on September 25.[68] Eagler began in Hollywood in the silent era, in 1917 and his last film was released in 1960; along the way working on, Dead End, The Hurricane, Foreign Correspondent, and The Killing.

Jules Bricken supervised Portrait of Jennie while the project was in New York.[69] Mr. Bricken only had one other production in which he was a manager that was the 1948 release, Close-Up; he had two movies as producer, Drango, 1957 and The Train in 1964. The most productive portion of his career was in television as a director and producer. Bricken had a thirty-six year stint in the entertainment industry.

 

Canvas Curiosities:

In the last days of shooting extra scenes for Portrait of Jennie, in Central Park, the very last scene was in the sheep meadow; fifteen sheep were hired from a Hicksville farm. Director William Dieterle also contracted for a sheep dog, the scene cost Selznick $800.00 in overtime, resulting from a sheep stampede through Central Park, pursuing the sheep dog. The dog’s owner apologized for the animal’s behavior saying “the dog was frightened. He’s never seen sheep before.” [70]

During the ice-skating scene in Central Park, Jennifer Jones ruined the original take because of her being blue. She in fact began turning blue in the 19-degree weather in February of 1947. This particular scene and several other close-ups eventually were filmed in an ice-house in Los Angeles, where three-hundred-pound blocks of ice, ground down, substituted for snow.[71]

Joseph Cotten recounted the filming of one love scene which was shot at 4:00 A.M. on the Brooklyn Bridge; “It was a bit difficult to keep the scene serious and romantic when a fragrant garbage scow floated by.”[72] So much for realism.

Harmonica genius Alan Schackner, taught Joseph Cotton to play the mouth-harp for his role as Eben Adams for Portrait of Jennie.[73]

Portrait of Jennie won the Gold Medal Award from the American Schools and Colleges Association for Mr. Selznick for 1949.[74]

Morris Rosen the head grip for Selznick on Portrait of Jennie was the inventor of the All-angle-trackless-dolly; not satisfied, Rosen made improvements on his own work. The mount was hand driven, could move forward, sideways, backward in one operation; he had developed and used what would become known as “Rosie’s Dolly” for the first time on Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Paradine Case, another David Selznick production.[75]

While Jennifer Jones was staying at the Griswold Hotel and Country Club, in Eastern Point, Connecticut, she found that a convention of Connecticut dentists was in residence at the hotel as well. The dentists’ awards committee informed Ms. Jones that she had been selected as, “The Girl Who Brings Out the Enamel in Men.”[76]

The special equipment that needed to be installed into theaters like the Rivoli in New York and the Garrick in Chicago for the full Portrait of Jennie experience, which included near deafening sound effects, took two years and three million dollars to develop and produce. As to the sound-effects, some found it over-the-top, as with New York Times film-critic, Bosley Crowther when he wrote on March 30, 1949, referring to the sequence as “a howling hurricane that will blast you out of your seat.” Producer David Selznick wanted to show the film in these venues for indefinite periods, which for Chicago was prohibited to protect small neighborhood theaters. Selznick took the matter before Federal Judge Michael Igoe and got authorization for the extended runs with open end dates for Chicago.[77]

 

Publicity and Promotions of the Portrait:

No manner of publicity went unused to promote Portrait of Jennie, from greeting cards and cast pictures;[78] a song of the same name recorded by Nat King Cole was heard on radio and for sale at the local record store.[79]

A new device was used for, Portrait of Jennie, called a “Telelight,” working like a teletype machine; it would light up and promote Jennie with interesting information about the movie. The locations chosen for the program were in Hollywood and Los Angeles at Laundromats.[80]

Sam Goldwyn leased six-hundred billboards in and around Los Angeles, simultaneously promoting his film, Enchanted, for the Academy Awards, and preempting others from advertising on the boards, which left Selznick’s Jennie (and other Academy hopefuls) with little or no traffic advertising for Academy voters.[81]

Jennie was aggressively advertised on radio and television with cross promotions galore. A prize on ABC’s, Stop the Music, was a $1,500.00 pearl necklace with a diamond clasp, matching the one worn by Jennifer Jones in the movie.

The Queen for a Day, radio program originated their Christmas Eve program from the Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood, this on the eve of the official opening of Portrait of Jennie at that theater.[82]

Even real artistic talent was not left alone with Portrait of Jennie advertising, for in forty-three Los Angeles high-schools art students were having a, Portrait of Jennie, portrait contest.[83] No report as to the winner.

Jennie publicist Paul MacNamara, thought of using a gigantic (100 feet by 100 feet) reproduction of the portrait from the movie in tow by an airplane through the skies of Southern California.[84] I wish I could verify if MacNamara followed through on his idea, but sad to say I have not.

A 20 by 20 foot replica was painted on the Seventh Avenue rear wall of the Rivoli Theatre in New York; the hand painted reproduction was seen by thousands of even the most casual of those walking by. The artist (unnamed) attended his daily work in smock and beret which attracted the more attention.[85]

Showmen's Trade Review April 2, 1949

Showmen’s Trade Review April 2, 1949

 

The Rivoli Theatre in New York, offered an additional promotion, this was a jig saw puzzle contest. While waiting for the start of Jennie, patrons could try to assemble a three-hundred-piece puzzle of Jennie, those who finished received a 22×24 reproduction in full color of the Robert Brackman portrait of Jennifer Jones.[86]

Showmens Trade Review May 7, 1949

Showmens Trade Review May 7, 1949

Jig Saw Puzzle

 

On Mother’s Day, 1949, another Rivoli Theatre promotion offered free admission for a mother brought by one of her children; the first five hundred mothers received a flower from New York florist Warendorff. The next five hundred got the suitable for framing 22×24 replica of the Portrait of Jennie by Robert Brackman.[87]

At the Walter Reade’s Paramount Theatre in Long Branch, New Jersey, manager John Balmer arranged for students from a local art school to do quick sketches of customers, this done the week leading up to the opening of Portrait of Jennie at the theater. Students also produced a 30×40 Jennie.[88]

Showmen's Trade Review July 23, 1949

Showmen’s Trade Review July 23, 1949

 

Leave it to some inventive showman and things will always be improved upon, and so was the case with showings of, Portrait of Jennie, in New Jersey. The manager of the Walter Reade’s Community Theatre in Morristown expanded the impact of the storm scene in Jennie. Each showing was accompanied by three flash bulbs for photos, which were placed in the floodlights located at the base of the stage. When lightning flashed on screen, the booth operator hit the switch setting off the flash bulbs. The stunt was well received and was used for each viewing. [89]

 

Fashion of the Portrait:

Before Portrait of Jennie was seen in a theater, a special time was planned by David Selznick at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Monday afternoon on October 11, 1948. This would be the unveiling of Robert Brackman’s portrait of Jennifer Jones as Jennie, with the work spending time in the Met gallery. A fashion show was also scheduled for the event; new creations by some of New York’s foremost designers (Trigere, Vera Maxwell, Philip Mangone, John Frederics, and Toni Owens) were seen at the show as well as the original costumes worn by Jones in the Portrait of Jennie.[90]

Jewelry was designed with the Portrait of Jennie seal, by Agnew, for sale at the Peck and Peck shops.[91] This trinket design ushered Jennie, a perfectly fictional character from the pages of a book and her subsequent adaptation into moving-pictures, into the real world.

Modern Screen September 1949

Modern Screen September 1949

 

J. C. Penny hosted a “fashion carnival” in connection with the release of Jennie in Salt Lake City; the fashion show was staged at the Uptown Theatre.[92]

A hat was made, inspired by the title character of the film, The Jennie Beret, created by Mallory and produced in eleven colors.[93] This chapeau really topped things off.

The_Delta_Democrat_Times_ Greenville, Mississippi, Rosenberg's Department Store Sun__Sep_7__1947_

Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, Mississippi, Rosenberg’s Department Store, September 7, 1947

 

Tula designed a peignoir nonpareil, inspired by the, Portrait of Jennie. The enchanting boudoir ensemble, as it was described was manufactured in Narco rayon crepe, delicate embroidery at the yoke, available in pink, white or blue, sizes 10 to 18; the set was offered for Christmas shopping 1948, with retail prices ranging from $29.95 to $32.50.[94]

The_News_Palladium_ Benton Harbor, Michigan, Enders Department StoreFri__Dec_10__1948_

News Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan, Enders Department Store, December 10, 1948

 

Portrait of Jennie is available on DVD (at a hefty price) but has not yet been released on Blu-Ray.

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) December 25, 1948

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) December 18, 1948

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) December 26, 1948

[2] Times (San Mateo, California) November 18, 1948

Long Beach Independent (Long Beach, California) November 30, 1948

Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) December 1, 1948

[3] Santa Cruz Sentinel (Santa Cruz, California) November 18, 1948

[4] Long Beach Independent (Long Beach, California) November 27, 1948

[5] Paramount Pictures Distributing Corporation, Loew’s Incorporated, RKO Radio Pictures, Universal Pictures,

Universal Film Exchanges, United Artists,  Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, National Theaters

Corporation, National Theaters Amusement, Fox West Coast Theatres Corporation

[6] Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, California) November 24, 1948

Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) December 21, 1948

Variety, December 24, 1948

United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit, February 27, 1957

[7] Showmen’s Trade Review, January 1, 1949

[8] Showmen’s Trade Review, January 15, 1949

[9] Showmen’s Trade Review, January 1, 1949

[10] Post Standard (Syracuse, New York, April 30, 1949

Portland Press (Portland, Maine) May 4, 1949

Salt Lake City Tribune ( Salt Lake City, Utah) June 24, 1949

[11] Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania) December 24, 1949

[12] Showmen’s Trade Review, March 19, 1949

[13] Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri) March 24, 1949

[14] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) March 28, 1949

[15] Motion Picture News, May 17, 1949

[16] Salt Lake City Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) April 13, 1949

[17] Motion Picture Daily, April 20, 1949

[18] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 19, 1949

[19] Film Daily, December 28, 1943

[20] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) December 27, 1943

[21] Film Daily, January 14, 1944

[22] Showmen’s Trade Review,  February 5, 1944

[23] Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) January 20, 1944

[24] Film Daily, July 21, 1947

[25] Film Daily, March 5, 1947

Film Daily, June 20, 1947

[26] Film Daily, June 17, 1947

[27] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) March 2, 1947

[28] Film Daily, April 25, 1947

[29] Film Daily, July 11, 1947

[30] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) April 9, 1947

[31] Film Daily, June 20, 1947

[32] The Day (New London, Connecticut) December 18, 1948

[33] The Day (New London, Conn) June 12, 1972

[34] Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

[35] Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) August 17, 1949

[36] The Day (New London, Conn) June 12, 1972

Either May 28 or 29 was her first sitting

[37]The Day (New London, Conn) June 12, 1972

Either June 11 or 12 was her last sitting

[38] Gainor E. Roberts

[39] The Day (New London, Connecticut) December 18, 1948

Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) August 17, 1949

Vanity Will Get You Somewhere: An Autobiography, by Joseph Cotton, published by Mercury House, 1987

And digitized by toExcel Press, 2010

[40] Vanity Will Get You Somewhere: An Autobiography, by Joseph Cotton, published by Mercury House, 1987

And digitized by toExcel Press, 2010

[41] Film Daily, June 17, 1947

[42] Showmen’s Trade Review, July 12, 1947

[43] Film Daily, July 18, 1947

[44] Showmen’s Trade Review, October 4, 1947

[45] Showmen’s Trade Review, October 18, 1947

[46] Showmen’s Trade Review, October 4, 1947

[47] Film Daily, October 22; November 17, 1947

[48] Film Daily, December 8, 1947

[49] Film Daily, December 8, 1947

[50] Film Daily, February 16, 1948

[51] Film Daily, March 5, 1948

[52] Film Daily, June 23, 1948

[53] Film Daily, September 20, 1948

[54] Showmen’s Trade Review, July 24, 1948

[55] Film Bulletin, August 30, 1948

[56] Cumberland Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland) February 3, 1949

[57] Showmen’s Trade Review, August 7, 1948

[58] Film Bulletin, October 11, 1948

[59] Showmen’s Trade Review, November 27, 1948

[60] Film Daily, September 10, 1947

[61] Film Daily, September 10, 1947

[62] Art Directors Club Annual 90, published by AVA Publishing, 2011, page 391

[63] Internet Broadway Data Base

[64] Film Daily, September 10, 1947

[65] Film Daily, September 10, 1947

[66] Film Daily, July 21, 1947

Film Daily, September 5, 1947

Film Daily, September 10, 1947

Modern Screen, May, September, 1949

[67] Film Daily, September 4, 1947

[68] Showmen’s Trade Review, October 4, 1947

[69] Film Daily, March 1, 1948

[70] Times (San Mateo, California) July 26, 1948

[71] Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) September 22, 1947

[72] Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) September 22, 1947

[73] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) February 19, 1949

[74] Motion Picture Daily, April 26, 1949

[75] Film Daily, September 5, 1947

[76] Amarillo Daily News (Amarillo, Texas) July 4, 1947

[77] Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1949

[78] Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) January 13, 1949

[79] Modern Screen, May, 1949

[80] Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) December 28, 1948

[81] Salt Lake City Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) November 10, 1948

[82] Showmen’s Trade Review, December 25, 1948

[83] Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) January 13, 1949

[84] Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) January 13, 1949

[85] Showmen’s Trade Review, April 2, 1949

[86] Showmen’s Trade Review, May 7, 1949

[87] Showmen’s Trade Review, May 7, 1949

[88] Showmen’s Trade Review, July 23, 1949

[89] Showmen’s Trade Review, July 16, 1949

[90] Amarillo Daily News (Amarillo, Texas) September 29, 1948

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) October 3, 1948

[91] Modern Screen, September, 1949

[92] Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma) January 13, 1949

Showmen’s Trade Review, June 11, 1949

[93] Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi) September 7, 1947

[94] Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, California) November 16, 1948

Miracle on 34th Street; a Scrapbook of a Miraculous Film

Poster-Miracle-on-34th-Street

Special does not do service to the accomplishments and the staying power of Miracle on 34th Street; as the measuring-tape said of Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way,” so too are the celluloid triumphs of this 1947, summer blockbuster, produced by 20th Century-Fox. The apex that Miracle achieved set an extremely high bar, not only for holiday pictures but for all films of genuine-loving-sentiment to come. It is with great pleasure I offer this article as a tribute to a movie that was ahead of its time in many ways and has found a home in millions of hearts.

Miracle of the Story Behind the Story:

As was usual Louella Parsons was first to the story of, Miracle on 34th Street, having spoken to producer William Perlberg about his next picture, My Heart Tells Me, which was slated to star Dana Andrews and Maureen O’Hara.[1] Perlberg evidently hijacked the title from Gene Markey’s film starring Nancy Guild; Perlberg felt that the title suited his story better than Markey’s. The early plotline included elements of a plea against the commercialization of not only Christmas, but Mother’s Day and holidays in general.

William Perlberg

William Perlberg

 

Young Hollywood director, George Seaton wrote the Miracle screenplay based upon the Valentine Davies story, about a World-weary, nearly worn out and a close to physically and emotionally failing Santa Claus, AKA Kris Kringle. Miracle on 34th Street is a brilliant concoction of love, compassion, faith and hope which combats the ever encroaching vail of harsh modernity, personified in commercialism. As Alfred, the youthful “jack-of-all-trades” employed at Macy’s flagship store says to Kris: “A lot of bad “isims” floating around this world… but one of the worst is commercialism. This truly is the heart of the film, an exploration of traditions filled with concern for others, generosity to our fellow-man and time to celebrate our family, friends and of course the children. Miracle works on several levels, but is especially potent as it reminds us that our society has hardened, often steeling itself, as it deals with “progress.” This modern-development leaves behind a capable people, who are able to withstand the coldness of the “isims,” but distant from the emotions which connect us within our communities, “even in Brooklyn.”

George Seaton

George Seaton

 

Miracle in Filming:

In November it was announced that John Payne and Maureen O’Hara would co-star in the upcoming, The Big Heart, which was itself a second appellation for this Miracle project, it (as afore-stated)being originally titled: My Heart Tells Me.[2] The story, for Miracle was penned by occasional playwright Valentine Davies;[3] Davies is most often remembered as a screenplay writer, yet this was only his third offering for Hollywood.[4] Miracle on 34th Street was released on June 4, of 1947 (the film was copyrighted on the same date) by Harcourt Brace,[5] which has remained a beloved Christmas story throughout the last seven decades; this would be Davies only book to be printed. Although the story was written in 1946, yet Valentine Davies did not novelize it until spring of ’47,[6] just in time for the simultaneous release with the film.

Miracle on 34th Street First Edition

Valentine Davies

Valentine Davies

 

Filming was set to begin for Miracle on 34th Street at the first of 1947,[7] yet clearly, as the idea of the story coalesced around Christmas, practicality took over (taking advantage of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade) and cameras rolled on Tuesday, November 26, 1946.[8] And so it was that during Thanksgiving ‘46 a passersby on Fifth Avenue may have seen actor John Payne and actress Natalee Wood in the window of a hotel; the two were being photographed for scenes in, Miracle on 34th Street. The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade turned Hollywood as veteran actor Edmund Gwenn portrayed jolly Saint Nick on the Santa Claus float;[9] possibly onlookers would have got a view of Maureen O’Hara and many of the supporting cast of Miracle that mild November 28 morn. Santa Claus brought an early present to the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation crew as the high for that Thursday, thankfully was 50, with sunshine on the whole and with some morning clouds wafting about; by in large a calm day weather wise for NYC.[10] Edmund Gwenn while filming the scenes for Miracle, overheard a friend say, “It’s too bad about Edmund Gwenn. He’s such a good actor, and now he’s reduced to playing Santa Claus at Macy’s.”[11] The Miracle company stayed in New York City with plans to remain until December 20 before returning to the friendly environs of the 20th Century-Fox studios in California; the Miracle troupe was back in the sunny climes of Los Angeles before years end.[12]

Edmund Gwenn

miracle-on-34th-street-resume

Kris Kringle Macy’s Employee Card

 

Miracle in a Name:

As late as the middle of December ‘46, Miracle was still being referred to as, The Big Heart;[13] it was then in the final third of Christmas month that another title change occurred, moving to, It’s Only Human.[14] The next title adjustment came in the days between February 3 and February 9, 1947. The new and final name for the project, Miracle on 34th Street;[15] in Great Britain the project opened as, The Big Heart.[16]

MiracleOn34thSt

 

Miracle Opening:

The world-premiere of Miracle on 34th Street was indeed at the Roxy Theatre on June 4, 1947;[17] the earlier premiere was in fact a preview in Hollywood held at the Academy Awards Theatre for critics and industry insiders.[18] The long-standing premiere date of May 2, 1947, that is most often reported is not correct, because critiques of the film were printed in, Film Daily and Motion Picture Daily, on Friday, May 2; Miracle on 34th Street, had to have been shown no later than May 1. Reviews for the movie were seen in print magazines and columns over the next week to ten days.[19]

Showmen's Trade Review, June 14, 1947

Showmen’s Trade Review, June 14, 1947

 

Miracle Reception:

Miracle on 34th Street, was from the outset a critical success with consistent, glowing proclamations, four of such I offer, following: “one of the most appealing, heart-warming films to come out of Hollywood in many a day;” “let us heartily recommend… “Miracle on 34th Street.” As a Matter of fact, let’s go further: let’s catch its spirit and heartily proclaim that it is the freshest little picture in a long time;” “any one who still insists there isn’t a Santa after meeting Edmund Gwenn’s irresistible Kris Kringle… is the sort of sour cynic we’re all better without… Here for once, is one of those rare films which can be taken to the heart without qualification… If there is such a thing as the “perfect” picture, we strongly suspect “miracle on 34th Street” is that rara avis;” “For any and all favors let us give thanks. It has been a long time since an American picture has made an attempt to achieve comparable freshness of idea. Therefore “Miracle on 34th Street…” is itself a miracle of originality.”[20]

Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, June 22, 1947

Post Standard, Syracuse, New York, June 22, 1947

Anniston Star, Anniston, Alabama, July 27, 1947

Anniston Star, Anniston, Alabama, July 27, 1947

El Paso Herald Post, El Paso, Texas, August 7, 1947

El Paso Herald Post, El Paso, Texas, August 7, 1947

 

Miracle Advertising:

Miracle on 34th Street had a built in advantage for advertising over all films released in the United States until the advent of chain-restaurant-merchandising. This particularly, because physical stores were not only mentioned in the movie but were used as plot points which developed the story arc. [21] Macy’s and Gimbel’s, provided several twists to the film’s scheme, with the two mega retail concerns acting as the mastheads of the department stores. Yet, Bloomingdale’s, Hearn’s, Stern’s, along with the McCreery store are seen in the “R. H. Macy & Company Shopping Guide for the Convenience of Our Customers” montage of Miracle on 34th Street; Wanamaker’s Department store is also referred to in passing. [22] For once, the businesses remarked on in a film of fiction were authentic, with brick-and-mortar locations for the movie attendee to visit after seeing the picture.

Winnipeg Tribune, Winniped, Manitoba, Canada, September 18, 1947

Winnipeg Tribune, Winniped, Manitoba, Canada, September 18, 1947

 

In a practical, real-world demonstration of this in-film merchandising connection, Lew Hahn, president of the National Retailers Dry Goods Association, wrote to all 7,500 member stores of the organization, commending them to cooperate in the promotion of Miracle. This was by no means a small task, the vast amount of arrangements were under the control of Charles Schlaifer the advertising-publicity-director of 20th Century-Fox; Rodney Bush,[23] Sidney Blumenstock[24] and Stirling Silliphant[25] were the legs to Mr. Schlaifer’s directions. Bush handled the territory of Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta; Silliphant visited Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and St. Louis; Mr. Blumenstock took Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit. Along the way these men scheduled previews of Miracle on 34th Street, and connected with the local retailers and the aforementioned members of the National Retailers Dry Goods Association; these initial east-coast and mid-west stops, as part of 20th Century-Fox’s national campaign, afforded Miracle neighborhood and city based tie-ins, not just a generic  country-wide advertising blitz.[26]

In New York, the, 34th Street Midtown Association (a prominent group of merchants in the district) decided upon a civic celebration to be staged in Herald Square (the intersection of Broadway, 6th Avenue-Avenue of the Americas and 34th Street) for the duration of the film’s engagement at the Roxy Theater.[27] The Roxy supported this effort of the local merchants by posting signs along 34th Street, advertising, Miracle on 34th Street; Roxy usherettes were chosen to post the signage along the iconic shopping thoroughfare for the June, 1947, opening.[28]

Motion Picture Herald, June 7, 1947

Motion Picture Herald, June 7, 1947

 

Miracle Cast:

Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, AKA, Santa Claus, was never better than in this brilliant portrayal in, Miracle on 34th Street; Maureen O’Hara as Doris Walker was just cold enough to effect the heartwarming transformation needed onscreen. Little Natalie Wood provided the child’s portion admirably, maturing not as most children do, which is to be increasingly jaded, but in the part of Susan Walker she was all the time becoming more open-hearted, full of faith and love. Mr. Payne (a much less somber selection for Kris Kringle’s courtroom representative, than first choice Dana Andrews), as attorney, Fred Gailey, rendered a solid performance, both in the character’s sincerity and his journey to his understanding of Kris Kringle. All of the supporting players deserve plaudits but, standouts for the production were Alvin Greenman (Alfred) and Lela Bliss (Mrs. Shellhammer) who rose to the top as the proverbial cream, in regards to the supportive cast. This was young Greenman’s first appearance on screen, and he would never recreate the gravitas that he brought to the role of Alfred. Ms. Bliss, a veteran of the silver-screen was hysterically funny, as Mrs. Shellhammer; truly, she lit up the screen with her vocal intonation and facial expressions.

Alvin Greeman as Alfred

Alvin Greeman as Alfred

Lela Bliss as Mrs. Shellhammer

Lela Bliss as Mrs. Shellhammer

 

Miracle That Remains a Miracle:

If you have not seen this Hollywood classic, then you are in for a treat, as you travel with the characters who are seeking hope, while navigating through a landscape full of those pesky “ismis” that tend to drain the life out of the human spirit. If on the other hand you have seen it, maybe like me you have numerous viewings under the belt, then, like turning to a favorite beverage, it is time for another cup; surely, Miracle on 34th Street, is just that, a wonderful cup of Christmas-Cheer, for which we can look forward to each year; enjoy!

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Louella Parson Column, International News Service, October 8, 1946

[2] Film Daily, November 18, 1946

[3] Davies had written Three Times the Hour which had a short run on Broadway in 1931; Keeper of the Keys, another short-lived production on the Great White Way in 1933, and Blow Ye Winds, in 1937, saw no greater reception on Broadway than his first two plays.

[4] Syncopation (1942), and Three Little Girls in Blue (1946), were his two previous works filmed

[5] Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1947

[6] Variety, April 30, 1947

[7] Times-Union (Albany, New York) October 9, 1946

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) October 9, 1946

[8] Independent exhibitors Film Bulletin, December, 1946

[9] Buffalo Courier-Express (Buffalo, New York) November 15, 1946

Logansport Pharos Tribune (Logansport, Indiana) June 6, 1947

[10] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) November 27; 29. 1946

[11] Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) May 3, 1947 (Hedda Hopper: Looking At Hollywood)

[12] Film Daily, November 27, 1946

Variety, January 1, 1947

[13] Zanesville Signal (Zanesville, Ohio) December 16, 1946

[14] Showmen’s Trade Review, December 21, 1946

[15] Moving Picture Daily News, February 10, 1947

[16] Showmen’s Trade Review, June 28, 1947

[17] Showmen’s Trade Review, June 14, 1947

[18] Motion Picture Herald, May 10, 1947

[19] Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) May 3, 1947 (Hedda Hopper: Looking At Hollywood)

Variety, May 7, 1947

Motion Picture Herald, May 10, 1947

Showmen’s Trade Review, May 10, 1947

[20] New York Times (New York, New York) June 5, 1947 (Bosley Crowther)

New York Post (New York, New York) June 5, 1947 (Archer Winsten)

Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) June 29, 1947 (Mildred Martin)

Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) October 15, 1947 (W. McL.)

[21] Motion Picture Herald, May 17, 1947

[22] This scene is near the midway mark of the film, just prior to the 47-minute point

[23] Rodney Bush was not new to the advertising game when Miracle was released, he had worked for producer Walter Wanger and earlier for Paramount

[24] Sidney Blumenstock entered the ranks of advertising at 20th Century-Fox under the direction of his brother Mort Blumenstock, later Sidney would move on to Paramount

[25] Stirling Silliphant would later have a successful career writing for both TV and the screen

[26] Motion Picture Daily May 16, 1947

[27] Motion Picture Herald, May 17, 1947

[28] Motion Picture Herald, June 7, 1947

It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Movie Extraordinaire!

Its %27s+A+Wonderful+Life+posterits a3its awonderfullife-email

By the time director Frank Capra had come to the project of “It’s a Wonderful Life” he had already mastered the ability to tell a warm-hearted tale, with films such as: The Miracle Woman, 1931, American Madness, 1932, Lady for a Day, 1933, It Happened One Night, 1934, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, 1936, Lost Horizon, 1937, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939 and Meet John Doe, 1941. Many critics have tried to dismiss the “sentimental” movies of Capra which have received the moniker Capraesque (this word now appears to have the meaning either derogatorily or complimentary depending upon which side of the fence one falls on), this dismissal seems directed to his film-making compassion, sensitivity, kindness, love and heart.

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Director Frank Capra

My wife, Margaret, and I have been privileged to see “Wonderful Life” on the big screen more than once, but each time it fills our hearts with gladness, and reminds us of how truly wonderful life is. We see the good that each of us can do, if we but have the courage, yet, the film brings to mind not only the pleasant, but the funny, life full of beauty, of the hurtful, with the ugliness that we can have in myriad. Capra does not shy away from the harshness that his characters must endure but finds the growth which callous circumstances carry. It is through this light that Frank Capra made a good portion of his movies. As the modern artist Thomas Kinkade is known as “the Painter of Light” so Capra used compassion as lighting fixtures whereby to film his works.

There was only one choice to portray George Bailey and that was actor Jimmy Stewart. He brings a depth and complication of personality to the role of George, which without would have left the film lacking. For this story (the screenplay was based on the unpublished story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern) is of a good man, that does the right things, yet, when faced with overwhelming pressures, scandal, a prison-term and bankruptcy he contemplates suicide.

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Jimmy Stewart

The cast is peopled with a stable of notable actors that brought their A-Game:  H. B. Warner as the druggist, Gower; Lionel Barrymore as the malevolent Henry F. Potter; the beautiful Donna Reed as Mary Hatch-Bailey; Thomas Mitchell, as uncle Billy, Henry Travers as Clarence Odbody, the angel;  with a full compliment to support the leads: Ward Bond, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Frank Faylen, Charles Lane (short but brilliant performance), Sheldon Leonard, William Edmunds, Samuel S. Hinds as Peter Bailey, Sarah Edwards, Lillian Randolph as Annie, Virginia Patton and Tom Karns, as Harry Bailey (no better work did he do than “Wonderful Life”). Not wanting to leave out the fine performances of the entire children’s troupe In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but especially to draw attention to young actors Robert J. Anderson and Jean Gale.

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This is a special film best viewed with the people you love: friends and family; if you have the opportunity to see it on the Silver-Screen, do so, for there is nothing like seeing the lights go down, the curtain go up, popcorn on your lap, sweetheart by your side and “It’s a Wonderful Life being shown it its original 4×3 ratio presentation. So, if you are looking to see the quintessential Christmas film or you just want to revisit the people and their town of Bedford Falls, there’s still a few days before Christmas! From its soft whispered beginning and its kind-hearted laughs, to its swelling ending “It’s a Wonderful Life” delivers a powerful, lovely Christmastide message.

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Notes from the side: In the scene where Uncle Billy leaves George’s house drunk, he stumbles over what we believe to be trash cans on the sidewalk, in fact equipment was dropped and Thomas Mitchell improvised the “I’m all right, I’m all right!.” Capra decided to use it in the final film, and we are so happy that he did.

For the old Granville House window-breaking scene Capra had hired a marksman to shoot out the window for Donna Reed, on cue. What Capra and everyone else did not realize was that Reed had played baseball in high school and had a strong throwing am (and accurate as well) and broke the window herself.

The gym floor that we see a floor opening revealing a swimming pool, the pool was real and located at the Beverly Hills High School.

The Bedford Falls set took two months to construct at the RKO movie ranch in Encino, CA., primarily using the leftover set pieces from Cimarron, 1931. The set covered four acres and had a 300 yard main street, with 75 stores and buildings along with a residential neighborhood. Capra, instead of keeping animals under strict control allowed pigeons, cats and dogs to roam free to give his Bedford Falls set that “lived-in-feel”.

its CastPhotoits Capra-and-Stewart-on-the-set-of-Its-a-Wonderful-Lifeits imagesits tumblr_mqnfyjDhwn1r3rloeo1_400

By the way, “It’s a Wonderful Life” had mixed reviews on its opening, and of course now is regarded as one of the finest films ever made by both critics and the movie going public; “Wonderful Life” received 5 Academy Award nominations without taking home an Oscar although Russell Shearman and the RKO Radio Studio Special Effects Department won a Technical Achievement Award in 1948 for their synthetic snow machine that replaced bleached cornflakes, which was the previous method of simulating falling snow in movies.

Merry Christmas to all…

By C. S. Williams

White Christmas: Still More, Behind the Scenes

whitejuly08

 

White Christmas the Music:

Contractual obligations to Columbia records prevented Rosemary Clooney from recording the cast album for the movie “White Christmas”, because it was with Decca; Peggy Lee stepped in for the official movie release. Clooney got her due with a Columbia release with selected songs from the movie. Also, MCA was afforded the same opportunity to use selected songs from the film with Crosby, Kaye and Peggy Lee.

white_christmas

White Christmas Soundtrack

White Christmas Clooney

 

White Christmas Technical:

Explanations of the VistaVision screen perspective.

whitechristmasaaaac13

 

VistaVision

This Vista Vision was accomplished through the work of the Lazy 8 Camera which was a modified version of the camera used to film the William Fox Natural Colour System; those cameras (a dual lens) were built by the William P. Stein Company of New York. As with many technical advancements and experimentations, the original system was disposed of, and some were bought by other studios or collectors.[1]

The Fox Colour System was long forgotten until the 3-D craze hit and John R. Bishop (the head of the Paramount Studio camera and film processing department), decided to conduct some tests, and found that the system was “ideal” (to borrow a oft repeated phrase from White Christmas) for wide-screen photography.[2]

The Cine Technician February, 1954

The Cine Technician February, 1954

 

The Cine Technician February, 1954

The Cine Technician February, 1954

 

The Cine Technician February, 1954

The Cine Technician February, 1954

 

White Christmas Wardrobe:

Sketches for “White Christmas” of dresses for Ms. Rosemary Clooney by costume designer, Edith Head and a photo of Clooney wearing a test dress.

whitech4c40421fb5513d1907137c65ed7541f3

whitexmasc9375ed6af8bafc353eea450928f4eb7

whitexmas23e784e18a9286dc08cb5cc729e5f90awhitexmastestdress8ed2053a3f11fa15736043c2ae682826

 

White Christmas Behind the Scenes Captured:

A cast photo of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Barrie Chase and director Michael Curtiz.

whitechristmascast

 

More behind the scenes of White Christmas…

WhiteChristmas2

WhiteChristmas

WH3

 

White Christmas Poster Art:

whitechristmas4x60styleY

WC5

White Christmas Lobby Cards

White Christmas Poster Italy

 

 

By C. S. Williams

 

 

[1] The Cine Technician, February, 1954

[2] The Cine Technician, February, 1954

White Christmas: More, Behind the Scenes

whitejuly08

 

White Christmas the Music:

Contractual obligations to Columbia records prevented Rosemary Clooney from recording the cast album for the movie “White Christmas”, because it was with Decca; Peggy Lee stepped in for the official movie release. Clooney got her due with a Columbia release with selected songs from the movie. Also, MCA was afforded the same opportunity to use selected songs from the film with Crosby, Kaye and Peggy Lee.

white_christmas

White Christmas Soundtrack

White Christmas Clooney

 

White Christmas Technical:

Explanations of the VistaVision screen perspective.

whitechristmasaaaac13

 

VistaVision

 

White Christmas Wardrobe:

Sketches for “White Christmas” of dresses for Ms. Rosemary Clooney by costume designer, Edith Head and a photo of Clooney wearing a test dress.

whitech4c40421fb5513d1907137c65ed7541f3

whitexmasc9375ed6af8bafc353eea450928f4eb7

whitexmas23e784e18a9286dc08cb5cc729e5f90awhitexmastestdress8ed2053a3f11fa15736043c2ae682826

 

White Christmas Behind the Scenes Captured:

A cast photo of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Barrie Chase and director Michael Curtiz.

whitechristmascast

 

More behind the scenes of White Christmas…

WhiteChristmas2

WhiteChristmas

WH3

 

White Christmas Poster Art:

whitechristmas4x60styleY

WC5

White Christmas Lobby Cards

White Christmas Poster Italy

 

 

By C. S. Williams